Archive for September, 2008

John just completed a fairly major project for his 6th Grade Abeka Academy class taught by Mr. Howe.  His assignment was to make a poster-sized map of a country that includes the name of the country and its borders, rivers, mountains, major cities, the capital city, natural resources, agricultural/industrial centers, and major geographical features.

John immediately chose China, which was a natural choice for him considering his sister is from China!  At first I thought maybe he bit off more than he could chew because China is such a large country, but we did internet research to see if such a project was reasonable, and we came to the conclusion that it would not be easy, but it could be very rewarding.

Fortunately, we found some good internet resources to complete the project, but our local library also had a wonderful book, National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our World, that really had most of the information in it that we needed to make the map.

Once we had resources, we had to figure out just how to draw a poster-sized map of China.  Dan uses computer projectors quite a bit for his job, so that was our solution.  Our church graciously let us use their projector to enlarge the image onto a piece of posterboard where the borders, major cities, and rivers could be traced.  This was a tedious, but effective method!  John also used the projector to make his title.

We then used a variety of internet maps to pencil in the other features that John needed, and John wrote in the names of the cities, rivers, and mountain ranges.  All of this, of course, had to be inked once the pencilling was done.  We used computer clipart to make the symbols for the map, and those had to be cut out and glued onto the poster and the map key.

I think the project came out very nice!  He has a reason to be proud of a job well done!

(By the way, Kara is pointing to Huangshan in this entry’s picture.  That is the city that she is from.)

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This week’s Homeschool Memoirs Meme Theme is Summer Photo Essay.  We are to post pictures from our summer activities and give a brief description of them.

Our summer was very busy–it was hard to summarize it in a few pictures!  🙂  I put together a Smilebox Slideshow for this assignment.  I hope you all enjoy it!

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My Sister-in-Law, Amber, nominated my blog for an “I Love Your Blog Award.”  Thanks, Amber!  That is really nice!

Now, as a recipient of this great award, I am supposed to nominate 7 of my favorite blogs to also receive it.  Wow–I read a lot of blogs, so narrowing it down to 7 is kind of hard!  So, I looked through my bookmarks and picked out the ones that I visit most often and really enjoy.  Here they are (in no particular order):

Scraps ‘N Snaps is my Sister-In-Law Amber’s blog.  I enjoy reading it and keeping up with my wonderful nephew, Levi!  It’s kind of strange–we both live in the same town, but it seems like we keep up with each other’s news through our blogs!  Anyway, Amber is a sweetie, and her blog is very nice.

Finishing Our Family From China is my friend Shelley’s blog.  I met this wonderful family when we travelled to China to adopt Kara.  They were part of our travel group and adopted their beautiful daughter Claire from the same province.  They were very supportive friends when we needed them, and I love them dearly.  They are now in the process of adopting a little boy from China, and I can’t wait to see him in their arms!  Their daughter also has a blog called Ready or Not, Here He Comes!  It will be neat to read her blog as they adopt her little brother!

Shirley’s Adventure to Grace Elyse is another favorite!  Terrye and I have been internet buddies for quite awhile, and I enjoy seeing her wonderful pictures of her daughter who is adopted from China.  Terrye is also a Grandma of some precious kids, so it’s neat to see them playing with their Aunt Grace.  Just a note about this blog:  be ready for some smiles!  Little Grace has the cutest expressions, and Terrye knows how to use those expressions to put together cute stories about her antics!

Journey to Therese is a wonderful blog of a growing family.  I began reading this blog quite some time ago when Adele’s husband travelled to China to adopt their daughter, Therese.  Since then, they have had another biological baby, and are expecting again!  They are really a beautiful family.  I enjoy seeing pictures of Therese.  She is one of the beautiful girls that we considered when we were applying for special needs kids, and it is so wonderful to be able to see her grow up in a loving home. 

Beautiful Feet on the Mountains is a wonderful blog written by a lady whose family lives in China.  They have a lovely daughter, and I just really enjoy reading this blog.  I have never had any contact with the author–maybe I should.  Anyway, she has beautiful pictures of China in her blog, and it makes me miss that great country so much!  She also has funny entries about the strange English names that some of the Chinese people choose.

Living with a Child and Adopting a Second Child is my friend Heather’s blog.  I met her over the internet, and I feel like I really know her.  She and her husband have a wonderful little boy adopted from China, and they are in the process of adopting a beautiful girl from China.  I can’t wait for them to bring this sweet girl home–she is just lovely!

Mighty Oak Country School is a newly-discovered treasure for me!  I met the author, Violin Mom, through the Homeschool Memoirs Meme.  This family has two adopted children whom they homeschool.  They are very involved with Suzuki violin lessons, and their kids play their violins beautifully!  When I first started reading this blog, I could hardly believe how much this Mom and I have in common.  We are becoming quick internet friends.

There you have it:  my list of the newest recipients of the “I Love Your Blog” Awards.  Please check them out.  These are all wonderful people that I know that you will enjoy getting to know!

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All three of my boys have been selling Trails End popcorn products to raise money for their respective Boy Scout groups.   This year, Trails End has added online sales to their Boy Scout fundraising program so that distant friends and relatives can order popcorn, have it shipped directly to them, and still contribute directly to the scout that made the sale. 

In addition to this, Trails End has added a neat option for supporting the USA military!  For a donation of $25, they will ship Boy Scout popcorn to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to other overseas military bases,  domestic military bases, and to military families.  You can imagine how having this simple treat could encourage the soldiers and help them to know that we are supporting them!

The site to order the Boy Scout popcorn is http://www.orderpopcorn.com .  There are tins, microwave packs, and the military donation options all available.  On the homepage of the site, it asks for an order key.  This is the method that Trails End uses to send the proceeds from the sale to the local packs and troops.  If any of our family or friends is interested in purchasing some popcorn or making the military donation, please use one of these codes:

     John–TEPBSJP         Brock–TEZQDMK        Luke–TEZQ4T8

Also, if an online purchase is made, please drop us an email at colbylobrien@gmail.com so that we can keep records of our local sales.  Thanks so much!

I think it is great that the Boy Scouts can support the military through their popcorn sales.  One of the focuses of the scouting program is patriotism, so these two great causes work well together!

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I have had a lot of fun making the slideshow at the end of this entry.  It has brought back special memories of the day that Huang Min Cui became my daughter, Kara Joy Mincui.

A couple of weeks ago as I was getting out fall clothes for Kara, I came across the outfit that she was wearing the day that I adopted her.  I had put it away in a special place to save for her, and when I saw it, I decided to get it out and look at it.  I held it up and noticed how new and special it looked.  Those clothes have a story.

Our journey to Kara was in many ways unexpected.  I don’t want to go into that right now, but you can read more about it at the links in the post at https://colbylobrien.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/karas-adoption-story/ .  Because of the incredible turn of events that led us to Kara, the orphanage where she lived in Huangshan had literally only a couple of days to prepare the paperwork, themselves, and that beautiful little girl for her adoption.  This was that orphanage’s first international adoption, so I am sure it was a special occasion for them as well as unexpected and hurried.  I know they did their absolute best to make Kara beautiful for us.  Either they found the best clothes that they had, or more likely they sacrificed to buy her brand new clothes.  They even mistakenly removed a post-surgical cast that she had on her clubbed foot thinking that it would please us to see her without it.

As I got out this special outfit again and held it up, I wondered if Kara could still wear it.  I had her try it on, and sure enough, she could!  So we took pictures and remembered the special nannies who took care of her in China.  It was a precious time.

Click to play A Special Outfit
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Two years ago during the overnight hours between 9/21 and 9/22 in the USA, an amazing process was taking place clear across the world in Hefei, China: Huang Min Cui became Kara Joy Mincui O’Brien, and our lives have been so richly blessed by her addition into our family ever since that time.

I have been contemplating her adoption during the past few days and how it corresponds to God’s adoption of me into His family. You see, prior to that great day in 2006, little Min Cui’s future was very bleak, and she had little hope of changing it. Hopelessness and loneliness pretty much summed up the life of that beautiful little girl with her special hands and feet. She did not know, however, that on the other side of the world, we were busy doing all we could do to bring her home. We were busy “paying the price” of adoption. That cost is high–it not only includes the financial costs, but there are great emotional and time-consuming costs as paperwork is processed and waiting begins. Min Cui had no idea what was about to transpire in her life.

Who knows what she thought the first time she saw me? Who was this strange white woman who called herself Mama and took her from all that she knew? But–Min Cui’s very identity changed that day. No longer was her future dark and hopeless. No, she was now Kara Joy Mincui O’Brien. She had a family to love her and to take care of her. The adoption was complete and irreversable–not because of Kara’s behavior, whether good or bad, but because we as her parents had “paid the price” to make her our own. And we had done that willingly and gladly.

Her new life included not only a Mama, but she soon met her Daddy and her brothers and sisters. It took some getting used to, but she quickly learned that no matter what, she was stuck with us. Her position as part of the Prairie Family is forever. The adoption was only just the beginning! Her adoption filled the loneliness and hopelessness of her past. It brought emotional and physical healing. And all that is left for Kara to do is to enjoy being part of our family. As each year passes, Kara is growing and becoming more “like us.” In fact, just today I have even had people comment that she is starting to look like us! 🙂

So, how does that parallel my own experience? I have never really discussed on this blog just how hopeless my life used to be. Without going into the gory details, let’s just let it suffice to say that I walked continually in darkness. I truly lived with death knocking on my door. Little did I know, though, that while I stumbled about, Someone was already busy “paying the price” for my adoption. Yes, while I was still His enemy, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price for my sin. It was a price I could never pay, but He willingly and gladly did all that was necessary to complete the process. He rose from the dead to prove that my salvation was indeed complete and accepted by the Father.

Not much was required of me for the adoption to finalize. All I had to do was believe the truth: that my adoption had already been purchased. A new life waited just around the corner. A life not of darkness, but of eternal hope and love. My new family extended to my newly discovered brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have such a wonderful place of belonging. All that is left for me to do is to enjoy my new life, and to allow Jesus to continue to transform me as I grow closer to Him as each day passes. I truly want my life to look like His.

So, when I see Kara, I praise God for the great transformation I see in her. I also humbly thank Him for taking me, an orphan without hope, and making me His very own. God is good–all of the time!

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Webelos Flag Ceremony

This afternoon, one of our local medical facilities had a dedication for a new flag/flagpole and had asked the Webelos to raise the flag and perform a flag ceremony.  Brock and two of his friends led the ceremony.  I must say that whenever I see my boys participate in this type of activity, I am so pleased.  I am proud of the way that Boy Scouts teach patriotism.  Love for our country and respect for our flag are important values to pass on to our kids.

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For Brock’s first book report of 4th grade, he reviewed the book Song of the Brook which was written by Matilda Nordtvedt.  This book is a sequel to Secret in the Maple Tree.  Brock wrote a report about that story last February at this link:  https://colbylobrien.wordpress.com/2008/02/02/book-review-secret-in-the-maple-tree/ .

Here is Brock’s report:

Song of the Brook, written by Matilda Nordtvedt, is a Christian fiction book published by A Beka Book in 1990.  It has 118 pages.

This book is about a family of five who move to Washington in search of a new life.  Hilda, the older sister, is envious of her rich cousin.  Instead of getting rich in Washington, they get a tumbledown shack for a house.  They discover a brook, shack, and their runaway cousin.  Hilda also learns that her cousin is envious of her.  By “making lemons turn into lemonade,” Hilda learns to always be thankful.

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This afternoon the girls received two awards in Caravan:  their Hunter rank pins and the Personal Care merit badge.  We have really been enjoying Caravan–the lessons are so easy to plan and have fun activities.  We have talked quite a bit about the food groups as part of the Personal Care unit, so we reviewed that today by pasting pictures of various foods in their respective groups.  The girls quickly realized that many foods could actually go in several groups, so that led to good discussions.

I have been supplementing the Caravan curriculum with some basic cooking lessons from the book Home Economics for Home Schoolers, Level 1.  This has definitely been a hit–not only for the girls but for the boys as well.  Last week we worked on peeling carrots and potatoes.  All of the kids used the peelers, and then the older kids cut the carrots into sticks using sharp knives.  I thought they did a pretty good job!

This week I showed the kids how to measure dry ingredients, and we mixed up cinnamon sugar to put on toast.  Each of the kids took turns using the toaster, spreading on the butter, and putting on the cinnamon sugar.  And, they all thought the toast was very yummy!  Several of the kids have already told me that they plan on making themselves cinnamon toast for breakfast tomorrow!

So, I think Caravan is a hit!  I am really glad that the kids are enjoying it.

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We do not watch very much television–especially network television–but during the recent Olympics in Beijing, we did enjoy watching the coverage of many of the athletic events.  During the broadcast of the Olympics, we saw a movie trailer for a film that is coming out later this year based on the book The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate Dicamillo, who is the award-winning author of Because of Winn-Dixie.

I had purchased this book quite a long time ago because it sounded like a cute story:  it is about a mouse that is not understood by the rest of the mouse community.  He falls in love with a princess and ends up rescuing her from a dungeon.  Sounds pretty good and harmless, doesn’t it?  I thought that reading this book together would be a good activity for our family so that we would be ready to see the movie when it comes out.

I should have known better.  I should have read it myself before I started it with my kids.  It didn’t take long to figure out that this story is much more complicated and “dark” than I had thought.  Very early in the book, I realized that this book is no innocent tale about a mouse, but is really almost an allegory with deep meanings.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on the symbolism, and still can’t, but I can say that this story is not meant for young kids.

I only read a few chapters with my kids before I became so disturbed with this book that I decided to quit reading it aloud and read it to myself so I could figure out what it is trying to say.  Several of the characters are really hard to figure out.  The characters of Roscuro and Miggery Sow are both so complicated and are such mixtures of good and evil that I couldn’t decide if I should hate them, love them, feel sorry for them, or just what.  That leaves me a little uneasy.  What really set wrong with me, though, is the character named Botticelli.  He is a leader of the rats and is so darkly wicked that it borders on the spiritual.

Here is a sample of what I mean:

On pages 88 and 89 of the book, Botticelli is trying to convince Roscuro that the meaning of life if to cause suffering.  He says, “The meaning of life is suffering, especially the suffering of others.  Prisoners, for instance.  Reducing a prisoner to weeping and wailing and begging is a delightful way to invest your existence with meaning.” He goes on to say, “Do as I say and your life will be full of meaning.  This is how to torture a prisoner:  first, you must convince him that you are a friend.  Listen to him.  Encourage him to confess his sins.  And when the time is right, talk to him.  Tell him what he wants to hear.  Tell him, for instance, that you will forgive him.  This is a wonderful joke to play upon a prisoner, to promise forgiveness.” Boticelli says things like this while he swings a locket back and forth.  Is this supposed to insinuate hypnosis?

I finished reading this book last night, and I still am perplexed about what it is trying to say.  I don’t understand the symbolism or the allegory, but I do know I do not feel comfortable with it.  So, I am going to put this book away.  I don’t think it is appropriate for my kids.  What about the new movie?  Who knows.  Sometimes movies closely follow the books and sometimes they don’t.  All I can say is that the book is a little too deep and dark for us.

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